Besides the environmental downsides of throw-away napkins and plates, another disadvantage has come to light – many contain cancer-causing chemicals, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.
Christian Schmidt, German Minister of Food and Agriculture, is pressing for stricter controls on carcinogenic substances in coloured disposable picnicware.
Inks used to dye paper plates and napkins often contain chemicals called primary aromatic amines, substances that may have carcinogenic and mutagenic properties, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) told the daily paper.
These chemicals have been known to transfer onto food.
"In the past years we have investigated the risks of these inks at the request of some of the German states" said Andreas Luch, head of chemicals and product safety at the BfR. The study concluded that consumers should come in contact with these substances "as little as possible ".
Moreover, the current legal limit for carcinogenic primary aromatic amines in products used for food storage should be reviewed.
The problem does not stop at napkins and plates. Other food packaging, such as muffin or cupcake cases, paper cups, and bakery bags, can also allow transfer.
The risk becomes more serious when long-life foods such as pasta are stored for a long periods in coloured or recycled packaging and so dangerous chemicals have more time to transfer onto the food.
A Minstry of Agriculture report said regular controls at the regional level showed food often contained a large amount of these chemicals which "exceed the acceptable thresholds".
In addition, several other chemicals were detected from printed inks "with unknown toxic potential".
Minister Schmidt will soon present stricter rules on the use of coloured inks in packaging to the EU commission.